The Calgary Flames looked like giant killers on Monday night.
It was the kind of game that makes fans forget every frustration.
That loss to the Edmonton Oilers a couple of nights ago? Can’t recall it. Leon who?
With a 7-1 win over the St. Louis Blues at the Saddledome, the Calgary Flames looked like they were toying with their opponent most of the evening.
All the goals were scored inside of 40 minutes. Shots were 35-9 with another third of a game to play. In the end, they added another 13 for good measure.
For a night, it looked like the Flames might have a couple of those elite end-to-end goal-scorers head coach Darryl Sutter often likes to remind people do not exist on his roster.
Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk had something to say about that.
The dynamic duo finished with nine points between them. Gaudreau had a goal and four points. Tkachuk had five assists to set a career high.
“Matthew’s got great vision when he’s got the puck. Playing on his off wing gives him a whole different dynamic of what he can see and what he can do,” Sutter said after the game. “He’s making the most of it.”
Fatigue obvious as St. Lous faded after first goal
The Blues started the scoring when Tyler Bozak netted his third of the season just over five minutes in. Calgary answered with seven straight against a clearly fatigued and fightless Blues group that won in Vancouver on Sunday.
“Time change. Elevation. I’ve done that too coming in here,” Sutter summed up of the challenges the Blues faced in coming to Calgary on the second half of their back-to-back.
Unlikely goal-scorers Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev who started the onslaught, making up for the defensive error that got the Blues on the board first.
Zadorov took a drop pass from Tkachuk and made a quick move in the high slot, then ripped a wrister far side – off the post and in.
Tanev jumped in on the rush and glided in untouched as the trailer, quickly pushing Gaudreau’s setup into the top of the net past Jordan Binnington – who never made it back into the net after the second period.
Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan added powerplay goals late in the first and early in the second to give the Calgary Flames a cushy 4-1 lead.
Sutter plays it cool in post-game Flames presser
Blake Coleman and Adam Ruzicka piled on before Gaudreau himself stuck in the final dagger – a fast break on a feed from Tkachuk (of course). The finish was flawless; a top-shelf laser on the far side from the left flank. The echoing sound of the rub off the crossbar added an element of finality.
“I thought our powerplay scored the goals that ended up making the difference. I thought our second period was really solid. We didn’t’ give them much,” said Sutter, who classically underplayed the dominance of the evening in his presser.
“Bottom line is we have to check to win. Tonight, two goals was enough to win.”
They got another five for good measure.
Thanks to that top line.
“That line carries our team for the most part,” Sutter said, taking one last opportunity to ensure any players reading or watching his words later would understand that the score was unimportant. “We need to get some more out of everybody to be successful.”
Point taken. Tkachuk and Gaudreau were equally even-keeled afterward.
Ruzicka scores second of season in surprise start
“Seemed like tonight was one of those games where one of us would get the puck and the other two were working for space and getting open,” Tkachuk said. “A lot of time in their zone. Powerplay was good as well and (Johnny) was a big part of it.”
As is often the case this year, Tkachuk was asked about Gaudreau, and vice versa, when brought out to the podium together.
“He’s making plays out there. Smart player,” deadpanned Gaudreau of his buddy and linemate Tkachuk. “He made some big plays tonight. Thankfully we got a win out of it.”
Those two clearly owned the night.
Ruzicka got to briefly experience what it must have felt like to be the third wheel on a line with the Sedin Twins in their prime when the Flames call-up found himself on a rush with the dynamic duo late in the second period.
Gaudreau rose from the ice after some rough treatment in the corner just in time for the puck to come back to him. He zipped it between a defender’s legs to Tkachuk, who one-touched it over to Ruzicka for the second goal of the young centre’s career.
Even Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom was surprisingly solid considering how challenging it must have been to stay focused with so little work. Maybe he was fresh because he had the time to squeeze in a few quick naps between shots.
“I think the thing that we’re happiest in the locker-room is we didn’t give them much,” Tkachuk said when asked what he hopes people will be talking about – other than him and Gaudreau – after the game. “Hopefully they talk about that.”